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All employees are entitled to wages for all their normal and overtime hours worked.
However, suppose your employer hasn’t paid your wages. In that case, you can fight back and recover your unpaid wages, interest accumulated for the outstanding amount, and in some instances, fines and penalties required by the law.
According to federal law, employers should also ensure that they pay their employees the correct amount without shortchanging them. That is to say, the U.S Department of Labor’s Wage and Hourly Division is liable for implementing the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
But, there are also state laws put in place to protect workers from wage theft.
How to Fight for Unpaid Hours
Are you a victim of wage theft? Are your hours being correctly compensated? Is the pay rate correct?
If your notice that your paycheck is not right and the company has not paid all or some of your wages, or there are funny deductions in your salary, you can take steps to recover the money you’re owed.
Below are some of the most relevant steps you should take when fighting for your entitlements:
1. Talk to the employer or human resources
The first step to recovering your money should be having a conversation with your employer before taking legal action. The employer may not even be aware that you were paid the wrong amount.
However, if you are uncomfortable with the idea of a face-to-face confrontation or your employer ignored your claims, you can write them a letter of demand.
This letter should include how much you are owed and an explanation of what legal action you will take if you’re not paid your dues.
2. Sue your employer
Firstly, you can sue your employer for underpaying you. But, you’re required to file a claim through the WHD for an investigation.
If the WHD validates the claim, they will file a legal order to ensure that your wages are paid. This is often an effective solution for wage violation cases, and employers pay the difference between what you were supposed to have been paid and what you were paid.
In other words, this difference is known as back pay. On the other hand, if this doesn’t work, you can file a legal lawsuit in your local court or the small claims court.If your paycheck doesn’t look right, it probably isn’t. Don’t assume that your employer “has a system” for this and always gets it right. Here's what you can do about wage theft! Click To Tweet
Wage and labor laws are very complex, and the below conditions can impact your ability to recover your wages or sue your company:
- Are you an hourly wage or an exempt employee?
- Are you an IC- Independent contractor?
- Do you make the state minimum wage or federal minimum wage?
- Are you seeking overtime hours pay?
- Is there a class-action suit filed against the company? (Are there other employees suing for missing wages)
- Did you work a non-traditional workweek?
How to File a Complaint
You can file a complaint at the Wage and Hour Division.
All claims are confidential, and the specifics of your case won’t be disclosed unless you have given the go-ahead to do so.
The information needed when filling the complaint include:
- Your name and address;
- Your contact information;
- Name and location of the company you worked for;
- Name of the owners or managers;
- When and how you were paid;
- The type of work you did for the company.
Hire an Attorney to Help You Recover Unpaid Wages
In short, wage and hour violations can result in lost compensation for the affected workers. If your case is small and straightforward, you handle it yourself by submitting a complaint to the state’s labor department.
But, if your claim is complicated or broad, it’s essential to hire an attorney to assist. Similarly, if you are also unsure about the steps to take or are not very familiar with labor laws, you should consult an attorney; they will be able to guide you on how best to proceed.
Have you ever experienced wage theft? Tell us about it below!
Krystle Cook – the creator of Home Jobs by MOM – put her psychology degree on a shelf and dived into a pile of diapers and dishes instead. She is a wife and mother to two rambunctious boys, sweating it out in her Texas hometown. She loves cooking, DIY home projects, and family fun activities.